Romancing the Nation: History and the Origins of the Novel in the German Empire and the Netherlands
Keywords:early modern novel / vroeg-moderne roman, pastoral / pastorale, romance, translation / vertaling, history / geschiedenis, Johan van Heemskerck, Philipp von Zesen, Honoré d’Urfé, Philip Sidney, Ovid / Ovidius
The development of the early modern novel in the Netherlands and the German Empire traversed a similar course. Mindful of the ties between German and Dutch writers ca. 1620-1660, scholars have postulated a close relationship between Johan van Heemskerck’s Inleydinghe tot het ontwerp van een Batavische Arcadia (1637) and Philipp von Zesen’s Die adriatische Rosemund (1645). The essay demonstrates the complexity of this relationship through an analysis of their translations and critical reception of French Renaissance novels, and the role of history in shaping the composition of their original works. Van Heemskerck and Zesen each challenged and emended the tradition of French romance from which their own works derived by setting forth a patriotic program to educate readers about their respective nations. Through the subordination of romance to history, van Heemskerck and Zesen elucidated the responsibilities of Dutch and German readers to preserve the state through the cultivation of virtue and self-discipline.